Contender Series’s Antonio Jones: Everything Happens or a Reason
The expression “everything happens for a reason,” is corny, overused, and often times inaccurate. While assessing middleweight Antonio Jones (7-1), the moniker couldn’t be more accurate, however.
A standout high school football player and wrestler, Jones was bound for greatness as a collegiate athlete. But as life often times does, it caught Jones off guard, and changed things for him in a split second. A bad car accident left Jones seriously injured derailing his college aspirations. He would never be able to play football again.
Having to pull an audible, Jones enlisted in the United States Air Force. It was at his first base in Goldsboro, North Carolina that Jones stumbled across the sport of mixed martial arts.
“There was this guy told me knew of this gym that had grappling,” Jones told MMA Today in an interview. “He said he thought it was like wrestling. Honestly, I walked in there and it was during the grappling class that turned out to be jiu jitsu, so I thought I’d stick around. I ended up sticking to it and next thing you know I was doing wrestling, jiu jitsu, and stand up.”
Shortly after this time, Jones took his first amateur fight, which he won in 57 seconds. Jones thoroughly enjoyed the experience and while he sought more, the he had to put MMA on hold for a bit.
“I had to take some time off because of the military and living overseas in Germany,” explained Jones. “I still trained some, but I couldn’t do it all the time. Before I went, I had like two amateur fights, took that time off, and then from 2010-2013, I was pretty much living overseas. Once I came back in 2013, I was back in the States and I started training again. I did amateur until 2015, doing deployments in between. When I came back from deployment in June 2015, that’s when I turned pro.”
Jones’s military ventures did not end following the conclusion of his final deployment. He still serves in the Air Force to this day. It’s not the easiest of balances for Jones, who has to juggle three main focuses in life: serving, training, and being a dad.
“I like it, but it is tough [to manage] sometimes,” laughed Jones. “With the type of job I have now, sometimes we’re out in the field and stuff. But my supervisor is pretty good. I usually let him know stuff, and he works with me. Because it is like having two full-time jobs. Plus, I have my son full time every other week. Of course, balancing him doing sports and whatever he wants to do. Now he wants to do art and hip hop dance. I’m balancing that and work and training, and then on Monday’s I help [coach].”
One mentor who has made life a lot easier for the 33-year-old is Jones’s coach, UFC veteran Pete Spratt. According to Jones, much of his success he in part owes to the veteran of 49 professional fights.
“The good, the bad, the wins, the losses — he’s been through it,” described Jones. “He can get you to the right people and points in the right direction. When we first came to him, he was like, listen, ‘I’m not going to train you and not try to get you anywhere. I’m going to be aiming to get you somewhere. Just trust the system, man.’ It has worked for me. I never thought twice about it.”
It’s a difficult schedule to maintain, but one that is working for Jones. Through eight professional bouts, the Virginia-born fighter has seven victories and one defeat to his name. His success on the regional scene has not only earned him two regional championships, but most recently, a shot on an upcoming episode of Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series.
“It was on a Monday, and I was teaching the fundamentals class, which is a mix between the kids and adults,” Jones recalled when remembering the moment he received the exciting news. “I was teaching and coach shot me a message: ‘Hey, we got you a spot on the Contender Series.’ I was shocked, and announced it to the whole class. All of the little kids started going wild, so it was pretty cool.”
“I had been waiting for some kind of chance, especially with everything that I have going on,” said Jones. “I didn’t want to feel like I’m doing all of this training, work, time I lose that I’d be able to spend with my son, or anything like that. Waking up at 7:00-7:30 and not getting back until 9:30. There’s just a whole day of doing stuff many days.”
This Tuesday night on UFC Fight Pass, Jones will step into the national spotlight to take on undefeated Ronda Rousey training partner Edmen Shabazayan (6-0). If Jones impresses UFC President Dana White, he will earn a contract with the largest MMA promotion in the world.
“Honestly, that’s going to be surreal,” laughed Jones. “I’m going to try to put on the best show that I can and do what I need to do to get the contract. At the same time, I know even though he’s there, I have to block out the titan of meeting him just for that fight. After the fight and I do what I need to do, then I know I can let up. Until then, I’m just trying to keep it like it ain’t happening. It is exciting to fight in front of your boss. You want to impress him. So that’s my game plan. I want to impress him and make he think, ‘Oh, we need this kid on the roster.'”
Opposing Jones on fight night, Glendale Fighting Club‘s Shahbazyan will be just as hungry and eager to impress the boss. Jones knows the 20-year-old Californian is no easy test.
“I know his fights are based out of California, so I don’t really know how the promotions are there,” said Jones about his opponent. “I think it’s one of the lower promotions. He has some high school wrestling background and is at a good gym. For him to be getting a shot, I don’t expect him to be a bum. I expect him to still come in and present some kind of issue.”
“He’s got a little height on me, but the last three guys I fought were at least between 6’1″ and 6’2″,” continued Jones. “That’s the thing, I’ve learned how to adjust against people who are taller than me. I think it’ll be a good fight and test — for me and for him. When I look at his record, there haven’t been any guys who are decent.”
Confident, but not cocky, Jones foresees the bout ending inside the distance with his hand being raised.
“He’s a tough kid, so it’s tough to say someone’s going to be out in the first round,” said Jones. “I know that he hasn’t been on the same grind, or fought the same caliber as me. If he starts to slow down and isn’t ready to go into deep waters with the sharks and everything, I don’t think that he’ll make it out of the third round. I’m predicting in at least in the second round or the third, he’ll get finished. Any kind of way, I’m not picky submission or knockout it don’t matter.”
“Thank you to one of my mentor’s: Victor Hernandez. I want to thank my coach Pete Spratt, Rodrigo, and all of the guys at the gym who have helped me out. Thank you of course to my mom, my supporting cast, Jennifer, all of my friends, my work, family and everyone who has supported me. Thanks to my sponsors: K2 Cryo Spa. Westbodies. Total Nutrition San Antonio, Basin Trucks, Kinglish Athletics, and Randevu Talent. They’re even still supporting me.
Thank you to Francis Powell and rest in peace Oliver Powell. They helped raise me to be the man I could be. Thank you to my mom, Tina Norman. They have all been some good, important people to me. I wish them all the best. I can never actually repay them. Thanks to Jennifer. She does so much for me even when I’m getting ready for a fight. It’s been surreal.” – Doomsday
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